During Carnival, you can’t throw a bead without hitting one of the city’s many dance troupes and walking krewes. For grown-ups who envy those high school marching bands or who missed their calling as flag-twirlers, options abound for ways to get that parade marching adrenaline: there’s the 610 Stompers, a group that rides parades on motorized Lazy Boy chairs and myriad all-women groups with cherry names like Sirens, Cherry Bombs and Pussyfooters. One of the fixtures of the latter category is the Camel Toe Lady Steppers. Formed in 2003, it’s known for sparkly black and pink attire, sophisticated dance moves and their annual spot in the Krewe of Muses. The group hosts its 12th annual Toe-Down Jan. 9 at the Public House, which benefits the group’s charity, Roots of Music. The event includes music, dancing, carnival games, a silent auction, a raffle and more. Ashley Shabankareh, a New Orleans musician and fundraising chair for the Toes, talks about the event and gives her advice maintaining stamina in the Carnival season.
There are so many Carnival dance groups … Who pavedthe way? What’s it like seeing so many other groups on the parade route? Do any dance-offs occur?
There area tremendous amount of Carnival dance groups today! Whether they realize it or not, I think a lot of the Carnival dance groups pay homage to the Baby Dolls more than anything else. The Baby Dolls made it possible for all women to parade and dance in costumes. We take the legacy that they paved the way for to heart.
In terms of seeing other groups on the route, it’s pretty incredible. I’m always enamored of the unique flair that each group puts into their routines and outfits. Dance-offs never occur; we’re all in great support of each other – cheering on each other before and after every parade.
What’s your advice for maintaining stamina through the Carnival season, both as a marcher and a partier?
As a marcher: eat before the parade. You’ll be marching and dancing your booty off! Socks first; this was the most crucial advice I could get from seasoned marchers. Pre-park a car downtown – your sore legs and your fellow dancer friends will thank you later. Stay hydrated!
As a partier, drink water. Know your limits. Find your closest places to go pee – you don’t want to be stuck with nowhere to pee on Mardi Gras day! A little glitter can go a long way to cover up that exhaustion.
What else does the group have planned for the season?
Do you have a theme this year or anything people should look out for? In addition to our annual Toe-Down and marching in Muses, you can be on the lookout for our Small Dance Group performing all throughout the city. Our theme is kept under wraps until Muses – keep your eye out for our pink, silver, black and camel toes.
For more information on the Toe-Down, visit CamelToeLadySteppers.org